The best screen shots

Ir­ish film had a stand­out year, fran­chises as­serted their dom­i­nance, and some of the year’s best films came in doc­u­men­tary form. Don­ald Clarke and Tara Brady name check the best – and a few of the worst of 2014

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

We are, I sup­pose, re­quired to of­fer a provisional apol­ogy to An­gelina Jolie. That celebrity’s Un­bro­ken is one of the few films still to screen for crit­ics that might reg­is­ter in this hon­our roll of 2014 re­leases.

Mind you, com­pe­ti­tion this year was grat­i­fy­ingly fierce. It was a strong year for Ir­ish films and a stonk­ing 12 months for Steve McQueen, Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, Richard Lin­klater and Lenny Abra­ham­son.

As ever, this list cov­ers all films re­leased in Ire­land dur­ing 2014. So, yes, 12 Years a Slave, Her and Inside Llewyn Davis re­ally do qual­ify. We first re­viewed that last Coen Brothers film a year and a half ago. Don’t blame us; blame the pe­cu­liar tra­di­tions of film dis­tri­bu­tion. BEST IR­ISH FILMS 2013 proved some­thing of an an­nus hor­ri­bilis for Ir­ish film: there were poor qual­ity films, min­i­mal box of­fice and a gen­eral pub­lic dis­trust of in­dige­nous prod­uct. But 2014 pro­duced two gen­uine (sort of) Ir­ish hits in Mrs Brown’s Boys Da Movie and Cal­vary, even if nei­ther were top picks around this parish and as such haven’t made it on to our short­list. TB BEST FRAN­CHISE FILM This was the year when, fol­low­ing Mar­vel and DC’s an­nounce­ment of sched­uled projects from here un­til the new mil­len­nium, the to­tal dom­i­nance of the fran­chise be­came clear. Guardians of the Galaxy almost made it in. But the five films on our list demon­strated the most imag­i­na­tive ways of rein­vent­ing the Su­per­wheel. The Apes movie was par­tic­u­larly fine. DC BEST DOC­U­MEN­TARY The new Great De­pres­sion. Pi­o­neer­ing Swiss gay ac­tivists. A whis­tle-blower. An icon­o­clast. An hon­est politi­cian. Plucky Amer­i­can Samoan foot­ballers. Angry skate­board­ers. Con­clu­sive le­gal ar­gu­ments for gay mar­riage. A lost T-Rex. A lost film. If you missed this year’s best docs, you re­ally missed out. TB BEST PER­FOR­MANCES This year, we strike out and bring the men and the women to­gether. But it re­quired no en­gi­neer­ing to main­tain gen­der bal­ance. At the outré end of the spec­trum, Sid Lucero strug­gled through Norte, Lea van Acken tri­umphed in Sta­tions of the Cross and Char­lotte Gains­bourg went beyond the call of duty in Nym­pho­ma­niac. Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch con­firmed his bur­geon­ing sta­tus as eg­ghead du jour. Ethan Hawke was warm and flawed in Boy­hood. And Cannes win­ner Bérénice Bejo con­firmed that The Artist was no fluke in As­ghar Farhadi’s tricky The Past. DC BEST EN­SEM­BLE Not ev­ery film hangs around one core per­for­mance. In hon­our of co-op­er­a­tion and the ge­nius of in-depth cast­ing, we in­tro­duce an award for the wider band of play­ers. All the films fea­ture an ar­ray of con­trast­ing styles com­ing to­gether to pro­duce el­e­gant har­mony (or cre­ative dishar­mony). DC BEST REIS­SUE Back in the day, the only reis­sues to make a splash were Stan­ley Kubrick films, Lawrence of Ara­bia and the an­nual un­dust­ing of It’s a Won­der­ful Life. Hap­pily, this year has brought restora­tions and rar­i­ties. And Kubrick. And Lauro. And It’s a Won­der­ful Life. So every­body’s happy. TB BEST DI­REC­TOR Ob­vi­ously, some of our best film can­di­dates could have made it into this batch. But we’ve stretched to hon­our a few of the bet­ter films that have re­ceived in­suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion else­where in th­ese pages. From Palme d’Or win­ner Nuri Bilge Cey­lan to young pre­tender Richard Ayoade, the ar­ray of film-mak­ers is as rich as it is di­verse. DC BEST SCREEN­PLAY We might have liked a few more in­die curve­balls of the Com­puter Chess or Up­stream Colour va­ri­ety. But we did get a Thai Twit­ter movie, a prop­erly funny “abor­tion com­edy” and an in­no­va­tive post-Columbine meta-movie. TB BEST CIN­EMA TOG­RA­PHY “Best cin­e­matog­ra­phy” does not al­ways im­ply “most spec­tac­u­lar” cin­e­matog­ra­phy. That said, there were, this year, few images more over pow­er­ing than those in the stun­ning doc­u­men­tary Water­mark. The Homes­man took in western skies. Nightcrawler got the cobalt men­ace of LA. Le­viathan scoped Rus­sian lim­bos. Palo Alto gave us sleepy suburbia. DC BEST MU­SIC Mike Pat­ton is back on Faith No More de­tail. And Trent and At­ti­cus were not top of their game for Gone Girl. But there were plenty of elec­tro stylings – al­beit mostly OST col­lec­tions rather than proper scores – to savour. Even YA dystopian flat-pack Di­ver­gent fea­tured M83. TB BEST AN­I­MA­TION You never know. The Lego Movie shares the sta­tus of “most un­ex­pected crit­i­cal smash of 2014” with the re­cent Padding­ton. That de­ranged film’s most se­ri­ous chal­lenger among do­mes­tic re­leases is the won­der­ful “last film” (let’s see, shall we?) from Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises. The other three pro­vide laughs galore. DC WORST FILM Some films are just plain bad. Like Brit ca­per Plas­tic. And some films get worse the more you think about them. Like Hor­ri­ble Bosses 2. And then there are films that are so abysmal that to gaze upon them is to go quite mad. Take your evil bow, Na­tiv­ity 3.

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